A Very Brief Commentary on Obadiah

photo by Imran Shah (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilgit2/47985761417)

All scripture quotes are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament and the fourth shortest book in the Bible. The prophecy is addressing the nation of Edom, who are the descendants of Esau. There was a long history of conflict between Edom, Israel, and Judah. Obadiah probably wrote shortly after the conquest and exile of Judah by Babylon, in which Edom actively supported the Babylonian army and even killed many Jews who fled the invasion. You can see where it fits in the timeline of Bible books here


Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Obadiah 1:2-3

That which you hold most dearly is the very thing you must give up for God. Edom refused to let Israel pass because they feared Israel would once again take away their inheritance (remember Jacob and Esau?), but because they refused to risk their inheritance on behalf of Israel, God took their inheritance away anyway.

Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares YHWH.
Obadiah 1:4

It is impossible to escape God's judgment. No amount of money, influence, or political power can save anyone, any nation, or even all of humanity if God decides to destroy them. You can't hide beneath the sea or among the stars. God spoke it all into existence, and he can command it all right back out again.

If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!
Obadiah 1:5-6

God's judgment is complete and thorough. No deed or thought can be hid from him and no possession can be kept from him.

Obadiah doesn't warn Edom to repent. Just as with Pharaoh, Edom had long since passed the point at which they could have repented in order to turn back God's judgment. God is longsuffering and slow to judgment, but if you ignore the prompting of your conscience and the Holy Spirit long enough, forgiveness will no longer be an option. This is what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit: to continually reject his counsel until you can no longer hear it and your condemnation is sealed.

All your allies have driven you to your border; those at peace with you have deceived you; they have prevailed against you; those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you— you have no understanding.
Obadiah 1:7

All nations are ultimately tools of God's will. It's impossible to ally yourself against him because he owns all of your potential allies. He will reward your faithlessness toward him with faithlessness toward you from those you rely on most.

Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.
Obadiah 1:10

He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword. Edom betrayed Israel time and again for 1000 years even though God commanded Israel to respect their borders all that time. This prophecy was fulfilled in the centuries before Yeshua came, as Judah conquered and eventually scattered or absorbed the remaining people of Edom.

But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress.
Obadiah 1:12

God disciplines those he loves. He destroys those who hate those he loves. Never rejoice or boast over Judah because of their suffering or God will judge you even more harshly than he did them.

For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been.
Obadiah 1:16

God has promised severe judgment on those nations that mistreat the descendants of Jacob. The harsher the mistreatment, the harsher will be the judgment. Where is the nation of Edom today? It is "as though they had never been".

But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.
Obadiah 1:17

God has promised that he will always preserve a remnant of the physical descendants of Jacob so that he can fulfill his promises to Jacob. They will repent. They will be restored to the land, and all their enemies will submit to the King of Israel or be erased from history.

Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
Obadiah 1:19

This isn't a reference to Arabs or any other non-Israelite people, but to the descendants of Jacob who were once driven to remote places. God will bring them back and eventually restore them to the full extent of the Promised Land.

The exiles of this host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb.
Obadiah 1:20

From Zarephat in the north to Negev in the south, God will bring Jacob back from all the nations of the world to possess the inheritance he promised thousands of years ago. This promise of restoration was also given in the Torah, but it was predicated on Jacob's repentance. Fortunately, God also promised that they would repent.

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